Today is World Human Rights Day and I find myself smiling and feeling inspired by this short video by The Girl Effect:
Some of the more cynical amongst us might think that this video, while all snazzy visuals and catchy tunes, is unrealistic because it makes the solution to the far-reaching and complicated impact of poverty on girls seem so simple.
It is because it is a common sense solution that has been staring us in our faces.
It isn’t because even the most obvious solutions take a lot more time and effort than we think.
When it comes to violence against women, which has long been a widespread, deep-seated, and chronic human rights violation that is culturally and socially sanctioned to various degrees in communities worldwide, it is important to remember this:
That change and the solutions for change may take more time and effort that our current Instant Gratification tendencies would like.
You can’t have change appear overnight, just because we snap our fingers, demanding for it NOW. Not the real long-lasting change that is needed to truly end violence against women. Changing the world – to rid it of violence against women – is a long hard journey where we have to face up to some of the worst atrocities and the ugliness of humanity, no doubt about it.
Yet we mustn’t let all that sour us on humanity and embitter us about the world to the point where we attack potential but non-traditional allies (men, religious leaders) or succumb to Ostrich Syndrome (i.e. burying one’s head in the sand, hoping that ignoring the violence will make it go away).
Instead, we should, as Annie Lamott points out: wait and watch and work and never give up.
Hope is needed more than ever in a cause as difficult as the cause to end violence against women in our communities and across the world. If we do not hope or see any hope for humanity, we will be admitting defeat and we cannot let cynicism and jadedness take us down and paralyse us with the finger-pointing and Eeyore pessimism that comes with it.
With hope, we will be able to take action and to keep ourselves motivated no matter what we have to face to end violence against women.
With hope, we will be able to see the opportunities and possibilities that will give us more creative solutions and momentum for ending violence against women wherever we are in the world.
With hope, even if we know that the change we seek will not come in our lifetime, we know that we will create enough momentum and enough legacy so it will become the reality for future generations.
I know this much is true because whenever I encounter anyone who tells me that violence against women is too intractable a problem to solve, here is the story I tell them:
The women on both sides of my family went from bound feet to Rhodes scholar in 4 generations. It took roughly one whole century for us to get to where we are but we did it because the women who came before me refused to give up hope:
My paternal great-grandmother’s feet were halfway through the foot-binding process when the practice was made taboo for good and she ensured that my paternal grandmother was educated.
My maternal grandmother was illiterate and survived over half a century of an abusive marriage but she ensured that my mother and her sisters all finished high school. My mother in turn ensured that I went much further than her and I did – I graduated from Oxford University about 100 years after my great-grandmother’s feet were still being bound.
So don’t tell me we can’t end violence against women. The women on both sides of my family have proven that when there is hope and determination, we can ensure that our daughters do not suffer the same fate that we do.
And I come from one of the most misogynistic and patriarchal cultures in the world – Chinese culture.
I am determined to carry this legacy of hope, determination and strength forward. The positive changes to the status of women that I have witnessed in my own family is what I am determined to achieve when I started The Pixel Project – that the next generation of little girls (and the generation after them) will eventually never suffer violence just because they were born female.
Yes, those changes are not perfect – my family still suffers from the trickle-down effect of the violence that came before and we still struggle with cultural traditions when it comes to men’s attitudes towards women – but it is real, solid change and it is progress.
So here I am, on World Human Rights Day, sending out this message of hope and hoping that you will join in the fight to end violence against women instead of succumbing to bitterness, cynicism and apathy.
Solutions and ideas don’t run by themselves – they need us to make them a reality and to make them work for the 1 in 3 women and girls worldwide who face gender-based violence in their lifetimes.
After all, if WE don’t step up, who will?
It truly is time to stop violence against women. Together.
– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project